This memo defines
a MIME content-type that
may be used by a mail user agent (MUA) or electronic mail gateway
to report the
disposition of a message after it has been successfully delivered
to a recipient. This content-type is intended to be machine-processable
... to extend Internet Mail to support functionality often
found in other messaging systems, such as X.400 and the proprietary "LAN-based" systems,
and often referred to as "read receipts," "acknowledgements",
or "receipt notifications." The
intention is to
do this while respecting privacy concerns, which have often been
expressed when such functions have been discussed in the past.
- T. Hansen, Ed.;
G. Vaudreuil, Ed.; Message Disposition
3798; May 2004.
You can ask for a "receipt" for your email to be sent back to you
when it is opened by the addressee.
Most email programs enable you to request a receipt for your email by setting
the "Return-Receipt-To" option for an individual
email, usually with a button or menu item. Many programs also most let
you turn this feature on as the default option in the application settings
When you request an email receipt, a header is added to your email requesting
a confirmation email when your email is opened by the recipient. A receipt
can be useful if your message is important and you need to know when the addressee
it. For example, you may wish to phone the addressee to discuss the email,
but want to wait until they have read it.
Some email programs notify the recipient of the receipt request, and allow
them to confirm or ignore it, but most programs just send the receipt automatically
when the email is opened. A few have an option to never send receipts.
However, many email systems, companies, and networks do not honour the receipt
option due to privacy concerns. For example,
you may not wish to have others know when you read your email, particularly
if they are from another company or organization. Some email applications include
an option at the client level to always
ignore return receipts, placing privacy control in the hands of the end-user.
Others block all receipts at the Internet firewall.
Web receipts. Some web-based attempts have been made to mimic the receipts
available with registered land-based mail. For example, ReturnReceipt.com provided
a similar service until disbanding in 2001 -- when you sent a message with
this service, the recipient received an email notifying them to go to a web
site to retrieve the actual message, following which you were sent a certified
and time-stamped email guaranteeing that the message was delivered.
Resources. The following resource provides more information on email
3461; K. Moore; Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) Service Extension
for Delivery Status Notifications (DSNs); January 2003
3464; K. Moore; G. Vaudreuil; An Extensible Message Format for
Delivery Status Notifications; January 2003
3798; T. Hansen, Ed.; G. Vaudreuil, Ed;. Message Disposition Notification;
3834; K. Moore; Recommendations for Automatic Responses to Electronic
Mail; August 2004.